Working From Home: Finding Your Groove

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Photo credit: a blog piece about staying motivated while working from home:

http://under30ceo.com/how-to-keep-motivated-when-working-from-home/

For years I fantasized about finding a job working from home, and nothing that I could afford to live off was available. When I started working with the family business, it was mostly marketing projects I could do at home & email. It worked great.

At the time I started going full tilt for my dad’s company, he was in-between offices so I had to do a make-shift operation in my spare room. It worked great. It worked so well in fact, I dreaded him finding a new office.

Eventually a spot opened up that was perfect, but a bit small for all of us. I graciously volunteered to telecommute for the sake of of environmental conservation. He bought it, phew!

At first, I felt guilty being able to work from home, so I found myself working night & day, every day to compensate. That lasted about 6 months before I had a total burn-out.

Because my job description is so varied, and is mostly centred around communication, and raising awareness, at the end of every day I didn’t have a task-list checked off to make me ever feel done. No stack of stuffed envelopes to measure myself against.

My job, is more of a daily blossoming of phone calls, emails & crisis management as they come up, which is regularly. I’m also in learning mode, trying to bring European technology to Canada, opening up a new market and I have a lot to learn. Right now much of my time is spent reading and networking, gathering puzzle pieces for our 5 year plan.

When you have an open-ended job that doesn’t have an immediate quantifiable ROI or performance tracking mechanism, it can be hard to stay motivated, or gauge productivity. This can either lead to under performance, or overwork. Both can be devastating to a life and career.

For me, it helped to sit down and outline for myself what I felt my function or role was in the organization. What do I need to be ‘on top of’ -I set that as a priority. The ‘things that come up’ I can’t schedule, and in this field, it seems to always happen between 1am-5am and usually leads to the next day lost filing reports and making calls.

I have to allow for that. I learned early on, that starting work heroically at 8am when there was nothing to do, left me tapped out at 2am when my team really needed me. Part of ‘my role’ is to be tied to my phone 24-7 and be on call & alert as I may be needed at any moment. That means its one glass of wine, when everyone else has had two or 3, no matter how special the occasion. No ringer-off for date night with my husband, none of that.

As such, I stopped pressuring myself into 8 hr blocks. I look at days in 24 hr segments. I get 10-12 hrs of productivity in, every 24 hrs.

I stopped using a home office, and now work where I’m comfortable, often on my front porch. I can work longer if I’m cozy. Being disabled means some days getting out of bed is difficult. At any other job I would have to call in sick. At this job, my coworkers don’t even notice that I’m unwell unless they read me whining about it on facebook. I have my ipad & cellphone, and besides the occasional meeting, I can do this entire job on those two devices. I have had many astoundingly productive full days at the office without ever getting out of bed except to pee. As a disabled person, to work at my best as I’m feeling my worst, is really empowering for me, and a wonderful distraction from the pain!

That’s how much I love my job. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing, even when I’m unwell.

Other tips:

  • Get into a routine. I have places/times I write in, get dispatching done, social media somewhat scheduled etc. At the same time, I’m flexible. Days/tasks are fluid, so I don’t get caught up in what I was going to do, if something else comes up.
  • I have released the need to respond to every single thing on the spot. Some things can wait.
  • Instead of checking email/ messages as they come in, I do it 2-3 times a day & dispatch them all at one time. Notifications are turned off.
  • If I’m tired, I nap. I find if I rest when I’m tired, I end up wide awake working way into the wee hours, and get a ton more accomplished. It also means when I get a 1am emergency phone call, I’ll be bright eyed & bushy tailed.
  • I don’t rush in the morning, I start when I start and if I feel like working all evening, I honour that too. Loved ones know that I work when I can & not to expect me to be at their disposal after a certain hour. I sneak time in when I can, but this business is a 7 day a week gig, and there is no avoiding that. When I do have a few hours of quiet, I make them decadent & pamper myself…mostly with sleep, play time with pets or time sitting outside with my family.
  • At the start of each day I make a tentative list of things I would like to accomplish while dealing with the things that come up, and my daily tasks like dispatching. If I manage all that, I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day, which is the ‘job well done’ bliss I love.
  • I also set priorities for the week. I think of weeks as themes. This week its new business, next week its organizing, the week after it might be networking or marketing etc.
  • Thursdays I dedicate to going hard & catching up in areas I might have fallen behind so that Friday can be an easy tying up loose ends of the week, and identifying what theme I should focus energy on next week. By ‘closing up’ this week’s theme & mentally prepping for next week, I can end my week feeling accomplished.
  • Saturdays & Sundays I only do things as they come up & only if important. Monday mornings are for catching up on non urgent weekend messages.

So far, I’m feeling balanced, sane & really happy.

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